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Does the Christian View of God Need Revising?

As kids we compared one another’s fathers to prove “my Dad is better than your Dad”.  When my son Justin was attending kindergarten, he informed me about a kid in his class who boasted his father played baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Since I am a baseball fanatic, I had to check it out.

After spending an hour investigating the Dodger website, I concluded Justin’s friend was lying.  In fact, the kid’s father did not even work in the Dodger front office as a business executive let alone as a baseball player.  I told my son his friend is making up stories about his Dad.  I then proceeded to tell my kindergartner that I used to play first base for the New York Yankees!

Speaking of dads, in chapter seven of Rob Bell’s controversial book Love Wins,  the Pastor compares our earthly fathers to God the Father.

The Theology of a Bi-Polar God

In light of Bell’s comparison, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grandville, Michigan comes up with the reason why people  do not accept Jesus. Bell wonders, “If your God is loving one second and cruel the next, if your God will punish people for all of eternity for sins committed in a few short years . . . no amount of clever marketing . . . will be able to disguise that one, true, glaring, untenable, unacceptable, awful reality” (page 175).  In light of this statement the author sums up what his view of hell is:  hell is refusing to trust and refusing to trust is often rooted in a distorted view of God (pg. 175).

If we had a human father who like the God of Christianity was loving one second and then cruel the next, we would tag him an “abusive father.”

Therefore, the God portrayed by followers of Jesus is both loving and cruel.  Therefore, how can Christians expect anyone to accept the Christian message of a cruel, abusive God the Father after also being told God so loved that world that He sent His Son to die on a cross to save people from eternal torment? (more…)

Jesus is the Only Path to God; You Just Don’t Know It

There’s not a Christian alive who does not know the contents of John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

What is there not to understand about this verse?  How much clearer can Jesus be about the fact men and women come to the Father through Him alone?  Yes, it is an exclusive statement that excludes the validity of other religious figures (and their followers) like Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna and every other so-called deity or religion.  John 14:6 is everything but inclusive.

Is Jesus actually a backdoor Redeemer?

Leave it to Rob Bell to find a loophole in what I call a  “Christianity 101 Bible verse”.  Bell says on page 154 of his widely read book Love Wins, “What He [Jesus] doesn’t say is how or when, or in what manner the mechanism functions that gets people to God through Him. He  doesn’t even state that those coming to the Father through Him will even know that they are coming exclusively through him. He simply claims that whatever God is doing in the world to know and redeem and love and restore is happening through him.”

When I think of all the off-the-wall theological comments Bell makes in Love Wins, this is the worst.  Would Acts 4:12 make it clearer for Bell?  “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

For Bell to claim Jesus doesn’t “even state that those coming to the Father through Him will even know they are coming exclusively through Him,” is heresy or just plain mental confusion. Is Bell saying a person who places his faith in Buddha is actually saved through Jesus; he just doesn’t know it. What about Satan worshippers?  Where is this taught in the Bible?  Are people who worshipped Molech or Baal in the ancient Canaanite culture actually worshippers of the God of Israel; they just didn’t know it. Why didn’t the God of Israel instruct Israel to enlighten the Canaanites instead of tearing down their altars and wiping them out? (more…)

Can Modern Christianity Be Too Loving?

Is is possible that a Christian can be too loving?  Can a follower of Jesus emphasize the love of the Lord so much that he or she leaves out other essential qualities of the Lord in their theology?

In Lynne Hybels’ recent blog on God’s Politics she asks, “What is an evangelical?” In one of her summary statements, Hybels notes:

I am a Christian today because of what I found in Jesus.

In the lover of my soul and the radical activist, I found the Christianity my mind and my soul had longed for.

In my humble opinion this is what it means to be an evangelical.

But whatever the label, I believe it’s the Christianity that our world desperately needs to see.

Hybels focuses on God’s compassion for others and the compassion of Christians towards other people as the true meaning of what it means to be a Christian.  In essence I agree with her.  Still I question any Christian writer who focuses mainly on love as the main description of Christianity.

Focusing Only on God’s Love Can Be a Formula for Theological Disaster

If  the most important expression of God is love, then what shall we make of the afterlife?  Will a loving God go so far as to express His love in such a way as to make sure everyone enters heaven?  If God’s chief character is love and His sense of holiness and justice is ignored, then what else can one conclude? If that’s what a person believes, that person is a universalist.  He or she believes everyone will be saved.  There is no other alternative. How can a God who is all loving send anyone to hell? 

Rob Bell, in his book Love Wins is a universalist as I understand him. In the fourth chapter of his book, he asks whether God gets what He wants? If God wants everyone to be saved, as Bell asserts, then the all powerful God will make sure everyone will be saved. If not, then either God is powerful enough to save us all despite His loving desires or He is not truly loving if He refuses to exercise His power to guarantee everyone a spot in heaven.

Since the Bible does not teach universalism, I interpret this belief as one in which the Christian ends up being too loving.

Since ScriptureSolutions is committed to biblical teaching and preaching, it is important that Christians are hearing the truth being taught from the pulpit. If one’s pastor is teaching universalism then the congregant has every right to ask whether their minister is being faithful to the Word of God.

Salvation Calls For a Personal Decision to Drink the Water of Eternal Life

To prove his position on universalism, Pastor Bell gathers together all the passages that refer to the Lord’s intent to ultimately restore “everything and everybody” (pg. 107). For instance, he quotes from Colossians 1:19-20: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”  To Bell this verses and others like it provide us the evidence God will be reconciled with all people. (more…)

Can’t God Do Anything Right?

In a recent post on the God’s Politics blog by Lynne Hybels, wife of mega church Willow Creek pastor, Bill Hybels, she asked, “What is an evangelical?”  It’s a question that has graced the cover and inside pages of Christianity Today for several decades. I am not sure why we as Christians keep asking this same old question.  Yet I predict if we keep making the same inquiry, eventually someone will come up with a new definition that will radically change the meaning of what it means to be an evangelical.

It was bound to happen.

Joining other theologians like Brian McLaren, author of “A New Kind of Christianity” (HarperOne, 2010), Pastor Rob Bell climbed aboard the bandwagon of redefining Christianity in his recent bestseller Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. 

One area where Christianity is refined with these “progressive theologians” is the inclusivity of salvation, also known as universalism.  Is God going to  permit everyone to enter heaven regardless of their acceptance of Christ or do individuals need to ask Jesus into their lives to receive eternal life?

In chapter four Bell wonders, “Does God Get What God Wants?”  In other words, if God desires everyone to experience salvation according to 1 Timothy 2:3-4, then everyone will be saved.  Read the passage, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the [knowledge of the truth.

He starts off by explaining the sad plight of people who do not accept Christ as their Redeemer. No disagreement there.

Bell goes on to describe the doctrinal statement of several churches as found in their weekly bulletin or websites, in which the reader is told “he or she will suffer conscious, eternal torment in hell unless they accept Jesus” (pp. 95-86).  Pastor Bell pokes fun at these congregations, “Welcome to Our Church!”  Bell’s a real barrel of laughs about a matter that should not be ridiculed.

Yet on these same church websites, according to Bell,  are “extensive affirmations of the goodness and greatness of God” (pg. 96).  Bell sets up the reader when he conjectures, “That God is mighty, powerful, and ‘in control'” and that billions of people will spend forever apart from this God, who is their creator, even though it is written in the Bible that ‘God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2). (more…)

Those Stubborn Bible Passages About Hell

Some things just won’t go away. For Pastor Rob Bell, author of Love Wins, the scriptures that mention “hell” and God’s judgment and punishment are a thorn in his side.

Slickness is Bell’s middle name when it comes to slithering out of having to sign a doctrinal statement that adheres to the Christian orthodox belief in hell –  a doctrine he rejects.

To water down the heated controversy over “hell,” Bell claims Jesus didn’t use the threat of hell to warn people of the serious consequences of not accepting His message of salvation.

Only Hypocritical Religious People Are Sent To Hell

Bell argues Jesus was mostly speaking to very devout, religious Jews who saw themselves as God’s elect people and thought they didn’t need to accept Christ.  In fact, when Jesus spoke about hell, He addressed individuals who “considered themselves ‘in,’ warning them that their hard hearts were putting their ‘in-ness’ at risk . . . ”  In other words, the religious people.

The people who would qualify as people who hardened their hearts during Jesus’ time were the Jewish religious leaders – the Pharisees, the scribes and teachers of the law. In Bell’s vernacular Jesus was not like most Christians today who use hell to warn people they’re going to eternal damnation because they aren’t Christians (pg. 82). Instead, Jesus used “hell” to speak to people who considered themselves spiritual and saved. In today’s world that would be “Christians.”

A few problems exist in Bell’s attempt to excuse himself from speaking about hell to non-Christians. (more…)

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